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December 1995
Judaism's Best-Kept Secret is Almost Revealed

"They think they're bringing heaven, but actually they are messengers of the devil."
Israeli Prime Minister, Shimon Peres, talking about Orthodox Jewish Rabbis on CNN, November 14, 1995

The wicked, cold-hearted murder of the Israeli Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin, did much more than kill one man. The presence at the funeral of Arab leaders, including President Mubarak of Egypt and King Hussein of Jordan, who made a brave, visionary speech, marked a milestone in Israel's history. At first glimpse, these new American-sponsored friendships offer justification for optimism about Israel's future. Beneath this good feeling, almost unbeknown to the participants, much deeper currents are swirling.

Mr. Rabin's unrepentant assassin, deluded into thinking that he knows God's will, claims the murder was a Divine instruction. Yet murder, especially of another Jew, is outside almost any Jewish teaching. Elie Wiesel, the Nobel Laureate, said: "Fanatics don't live in a tolerant society, and cannot be part of my community." I take issue with Mr. Wiesel on three counts: fanatics do live in Israel and in Judaism; Israel is not a tolerant society; and surely the ultimate Jewish aspiration is truth, not tolerance. Mr. Rabin's death has precipitated Judaism's greatest crisis for centuries. The question is not about Israel's future; no doubt, it will continue to flourish. The real question concerns Judaism, and the gaping hole in its theology that has now been exposed, a hole that rabbis have tried hard to plug with distractions.

Though Israel was created as a democracy, Orthodox rabbis have tried to impose a theocracy, over which their control has loosened only recently. They have long perpetrated the myth that Judaism is indivisible from Jewish Culture or Zionism, though these are three separate entities. Jewish Culture is rich, beautiful and full of calories! Zionism is a political movement centered on Israel. And Judaism is a religion based on Rabbinic interpretation of the Scriptures. Two other myths abound: first, that ultimate truth cannot be discovered, so all religions are equal; and secondly, that criticism of the rabbis is anti-semitic, a defense mechanism to stifle criticism of their sustained effort to deceive the Jewish people.

Judaism is believed to be the oldest monotheistic faith, but this is to confuse it with a predecessor religion of the same name, based on Temple worship and animal sacrifice which died out when the Temple was destroyed in 70 AD. Judaism, as practiced today, was founded at the Council of Yavneh in 80 AD, 50 years after Jesus lived, and mostly in reaction to Him. Jewish ceremonies are warm, beautiful and welcoming, but Jewish theology is vapid and undefined, except for the agreed denial of Jesus as Messiah.

Zionism is an understandable reaction to persecution, but it is man's answer, not God's answer, and it is a delusion. In Israel, religious law has now been sidelined and ridiculed: you cannot buy pork, but you can buy 'white meat' (i.e. pork). Israel has emerged from its early adherence to Orthodox Judaism and is making peace with once hostile neighbors. Peace is a great blessing for them, yet the zealots want none of it: they still seek a religious state using the borders of Ancient Israel, which include the West Bank. They think this would hasten the coming of the Messiah, though there is no Biblical basis to that correlation. Rabbi David Hartman, a liberal, explained: "They think that God will not return to an alien land, so territorial compromise is the highest form of treason. The Bible is very dangerous." An alien land? Did not God create the universe? Is there a part of God's creation alien to Him? I think not.

Rabbi Mordechai Greenberg, head of the Kerem D'Yavneh Yeshiva at which Mr. Rabin's assassin studied, said: "For 2,000 years we waited to return to Israel and as it seems to come true, the dream breaks; we thought we were on the way to redemption." The Israeli newspaper, Maariv, commented: "They are forming a new ideology, where the battle for land is above the commandment 'Thou shalt not kill'." Most Orthodox Jews now deplore the secular republic of Israel: if it has to forfeit its Biblical territory, it is exposed as a spiritual delusion, and it is not, as they had hoped, a messianic event. For them, to see Mr. Rabin negotiating away even a tiny part of that precious land meant the end of their hope, and in their frustration, Mr. Rabin died. Orthodox rabbis have long suffered from delusions, and truly underestimate and misunderstand a God who does not depend on human plans. Worse, they have failed to recognize their Messiah and His universal message of redemption.

The murder of Mr. Rabin (who was my relative) thus signals an end to the connection between Zionism and Judaism, which are now heading in opposite directions: one to a secular republic and peace, the other to a religious state without peace. Advocates of both ways would do well to reflect that "unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain" (Psalm 127:1).

This prompts a further thought: if Zionism is detached from Judaism, what's left? For those who prefer to emphasize spiritual teachings, what are they supposed to think of the Orthodox rabbis who stood outside Mr. Rabin's home, and prayed a death curse on him, and of those who later urinated on his grave? These are scenes we might expect to see in Teheran, not in Tel Aviv. Most Jewish people are utterly horrified: the most observant rabbis have been revealed as false teachers. "False prophets come in sheep's clothing, but inwardly, they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit, you will know them." (Matthew 7:15-16). Of course, not all rabbis support the Orthodox line, but if theirs is the purest expression of Judaism, as is widely accepted, where does that leave less pious Jews?

Israelis and Jews worldwide are now engaged in some profound soul-searching, as it dawns on them that their religious leaders, whom they trusted, are actually "blind guides" who have propelled them into not one, but three cul-de-sacs: Orthodoxy, Secularism and Zionism, none of which will fulfill the Messianic mission of the Jewish people. The crisis may become an opportunity for Jewish people to seek the truth for themselves; Judaism has been stripped of its two central tenets: the 'return' to Israel and unconditional love. And if secularism is advancing, then why should a republic replete with prostitutes, cannabis and MTV be revered as if it were the Kingdom of Heaven? In truth, Israel has never been anything more than a modern, vibrant Western nation. And if Orthodox rabbis behave like deranged ayatollahs, then who on earth do they represent? Certainly not the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Of course, rabbis have often tried to confuse their flocks with the minutiae of their laws, though few question their authority to make them and many revere them without question. Yet, there is a way forward for the Jews, one which rabbis have obstinately and persistently blocked. It is, in fact, the only way to redemption and fulfillment of Jewish destiny. God has a mission for the Jews, which He revealed through the Prophet Isaiah: "I will make you a light for the nations, that you may bring My salvation to the ends of the earth." (49: 6) The words 'My salvation' are, in Hebrew, Y'shua, or in Greek, Jesus.

Therefore, true, real Judaism, the successor to Temple Judaism, is the faith built on the Jewish Messiah, God's Salvation, who came at precisely the time and place the Jewish Prophets had foretold. Beyond the enchanting rituals, there is a Jewish destiny: to find, know, love and obey the Messiah, and to share Him with humanity. Yet, for 2,000 years, most rabbis have rejected Him, despite having no theological reason to do so. The (then) Israeli Prime Minister, Shimon Peres, who has apparently guessed only a part of the stunning truth, opened up immense new territories for Jewish thinking when he spoke of Orthodox rabbis on November 14 on CNN's 'Larry King Live', using these astonishing and historic words: "They think they're bringing heaven, but actually they are messengers of the devil."

Of course, the remark went right over the head of Mr. King (who is himself Jewish), but Mr. Peres was echoing the words of the Messiah Himself: "Woe to you, Rabbis and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the Kingdom of Heaven in men's faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to. You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are." (Matthew 23:13-15) Indeed, the ending of the Seven Woes speech is now chillingly appropriate after Mr. Rabin's murder: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, "Baruch Haba B'Shem Adonai - Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord." (Matthew 23: 37-39)

Jewish restlessness may yet complete what Mr. Peres started. He almost disclosed Judaism's best kept secret: that the Messiah they are seeking has already come. He is God's Salvation, Y'shua, Jesus of Nazareth. We pray that God will use the awful tragedy of Mr. Rabin's murder to bring about a Jewish awakening to the One whose birth we celebrate in this joyous season, the Prince of Peace, the King of Kings, the Messiah of the Jewish People and of the world, the One who offers the true way to fulfill Jewish destiny As He said: "Uni Ha Derech, Ha Emet v'Ha Chayim. - I am the Way, the Truth and the Life" (John 14: 6). May the eyes of the Jewish people, and of their religious leaders, now be opened to the One who brings the only real and lasting peace for Israel and for the whole world. ~ Steve Myers © Exegesis 1996
If you're Jewish and you've just read this article, or if you'd like to know more about how Jesus can transform your life, please send me an e-mail and I'll be happy to tell you more about His love, His forgiveness and His amazing power to heal and change your life. ~ SM.

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